The FAI Cup Final from 75 years ago - Spectators would have found 'better entertainment pottering around the back garden'

Thu, Dec 03 2020
Bohs captain Kevin O'Callaghan shakes hands with Hoops skipper Paddy Coad

Bohs captain Kevin O'Flanagan shakes hands with Hoops skipper Paddy Coad Credit: Evening Herald

In the build up to this Sunday’s FAI Cup Final between Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk, Macdara Ferris has been looking back this at past Shamrock Rovers successes in FAI Cup Finals.

We had last year’s dramatic penalty shootout success over Dundalk (see here), to the final 35 years ago when the Hoops secured a league and cup double (see here) and now we go back 75 years to the 1945 FAI Cup.

With the COVID-19 reduced season in 2020, the FAI Cup has been played across four rounds involving only the League of Ireland clubs. In 1945, the cup only included the eight clubs who made up the league that season.

The competition was played across just three rounds with both the first round/quarter-final and the semi-finals two legged affairs.

Shamrock Rovers came into the cup campaign that season as reigning FAI Cup holders and with the novel format, remarkably they managed to retain the trophy while losing twice in the 1945 competition. 

In the first round first leg, Limerick beat the Hoops 3-2 to secure their first ever victory at Milltown. Paddy Coad scored both goals for Rovers - the player is still the all-time record goalscorer for Rovers in the cup with 37.

In the second leg in Market’s Field, Coad grabbed another goal and Podge Cregg got a brace in the 3-1 victory (5-4 aggregate win).

In the first leg of the semi-final in Dalymount Park, Rovers were well beaten by Dundalk 3-0. 

However remarkably a Cregg hat-trick propelled the Hoops to a 5-0 second leg win. The Irish Press commented on their win that 

…nothing seems impossible to Shamrock Rovers in an F.A. of Ireland Cup tie. Sheer grit and determination pulled them through. Undaunted by Dundalk's useful lead, they went all out from the very kickoff. 

Thrill succeeded thrill as they battled to reduce the lead and it soon became quite obvious that they had Dundalk whipped. They wiped out that lead in forty minutes at Dalymount Park and adding two more goals in the second half to reach their twelfth final in twenty-four seasons.

While this year’s FAI Cup final in the Aviva Stadium will be a behind-closed-doors affair, the 1945 final was played out on 22 April in front of crowd of 37,348.

Robert Goggins’ book ‘She wore a green ribbon’ has an extract from the match programme reflecting the political situation the game was played in noting that the Council of the Association ‘hope that this will be the last Final to be played under Emergency conditions, and that when the next Cup Final programme appears, peace will reign once again and sporting relationship with other countries of the world will have been resumed.’

In the final the Hoops face a Bohemians side who had finished bottom of the league in a season when the Hoops finished third. 

The Rovers side managed by Bob Fullam had just the two changes from the FAI Cup final win against Shelbourne the previous season. One of those switches was Cregg coming into the team and he got the winner in what was very much a lacklustre final reading the media accounts of the match.. 

The headline in the Irish Independent said ‘Rovers wore down Bohemians and won poor cup final’. The verdict by the Indo’s match report writer W.P.Murphy was that Bohs essentially bottled it. 

‘The game was such a failure, I believe, because the big occasion proved too much for the Amateurs. They were too anxious and spent themselves in the early stages, while they appeared to lose heart completely after Rovers scored.’

The only goal of the game came on 56 minutes after a move involving Peter Farrell and Mickey Delaney came to Cregg whose shot hit the back of the net via the post.

The Cork Examiner reckoned the spectators would have ‘found better entertainment pottering around the back garden or walking around the Phoenix Park’ but Hoops fans didn’t mind as at the final whistle their club had claimed their 10thFAI Cup.

Here is hoping for a better game this Sunday on Lansdowne Road!

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